It’s easy to say your business needs a blog; the hard part is executing. You need a plan, a policy and an outline of what you want to blog about. And, of course, you need bloggers
As the digital manager for Parker Hannifin in Cleveland, Ohio, Wendy Soucie – who also happens to be the Co-Founder of Social Media Breakfast Madison – knows all about instituting and managing a blog program for a large corporation. She shared some of her insights at the April Social Media Breakfast Madison event at Turners Hall.
Her first advice: be careful and be thoughtful about all your social media and blogging. When you are the social media manager for a corporation, “The reputation of that organization is in your hands,” Wendy said.
Also, be patient. When you work for a large corporation like Parker Hannifin, she said, instituting new ideas and changing how people think can be methodical. “It takes a while to turn a large ship,” she said. “We build a workflow and process and operationalize it.” In fact, it was only one year ago, she said, that Parker added “Share This” buttons to its website.
But the company is recognizing that social media is playing an increasing role in all businesses. Customers are completing more of their buying process online, and that includes research about your products, services and business overall. Blogging helps “fill the gap of information” and puts your story in front of potential buyers as they go through the process of awareness, consideration and purchase.
Before starting any blog, Wendy said, you have to answer the question, “Why are you blogging?”
At Parker-Hannifin, she said, the answer was: “We want to get found, get leads, get social and get shared. Parker’s stories build a community.”
Her company’s audience is engineers, she said, and so the company started by researching the target audience and personas, finding out what they want to see and hear.
Things she said Parker considered in discussing the blogging program include: Strategy, branding, global scaling, governance, marketing integration, training, and execution.
Then you have to have an idea of what you want to blog about. Wendy offered this list of possible topics and approaches:
- Align existing problems with industry and offer innovative solutions.
- Reveal new areas of opportunity or profitability.
- Offer new insights, perspectives or ideas.
- Show our audience how they can be more successful.
- Challenge current industry assumptions.
- Articulate future trends or challenges.
Also, she said, it is important that you have your online content and commenting policies in place before launching your blogs. One of Parker’s policies, she noted, is that they don’t publish any comments that include a link. If somebody does include a link, Wendy said, she will delete the comment and then communicate with the commenter and ask him or her rewrite it without the link.
If someone says something nasty on social media, it is important that you have a policy that says this is why you remove it. “That is an important thing to document,” she said.
Parker training includes trying to “not mention Parker” in blogs or messaging. The focus is on education, mentioning key words that the target audience is interested in, and not to make the hard sell.
If you are at the beginning stages of blogging, Wendy suggested you start small and expand. Start with whatever works best for you: FAQ’s, video, or interview style. And then turn that into a blog. You could write about the “softer side” of your company, maybe turning an intranet story about an employee into a public blog. And remember, the website is the home base, always send people from the blog to the product pages.
Key issues for one-man shop leaders like Wendy are training and implementation. Her goal is to empower and enable engineers, an audience not comfortable with writing or speaking. She coaches on best practices, while recognizing that this audience likes processes, procedures and safety nets.
Also, she said, understand what is urgent. Is there anything that must be posted from your phone in B2B? Probably not. So go back the office. Use your computer to craft a well-thought-out message and go through the effort to find key words and ID audiences before posting. There is nothing that can’t wait two hours.
As for frequency of your blog, Wendy said, have a regular schedule but go for quality over quantity. She said the various divisions of her company alternate with contributions to the company’s blog so no one is overwhelmed with a high-pressure blogging schedule.
- Use an editorial calendar to align content with overall marketing efforts.
- Use freelance writers to help with creative juices (Parker Hannifin does this).
- Follow employee messaging on the intranet and internet to find out stories that should be followed up on and possibly become blog articles.
- Use an email marketing platform (Parker uses Eloqua) to build an email newsletter from related blog posts and landing pages that go hand in hand with promotions, integrating campaign blogs and social media.
Looking forward, Wendy said, social media skills broadly are going to be an expectation of new employees. “And we are going to teach them how to use it.”
No matter where you are in your social media and blogging activities, remember that this is a learning process for everyone.
“Even the big guys don’t have everything figured out,” Wendy said.
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org.
Special thanks to Kary Beck for contributing to this blog.
In April, we partnered with CONNECT Madison for a special event during YP Week Wisconsin, April 11-18 (hashtag#ypweek). YPWeek is a statewide initiative to attract talented young professionals to Wisconsin by showing them that our state has many opportunities for YP’s to grow their careers, participate in local events, and give back to their communities. The goal is to brand Wisconsin as a work-place destination for Millennials, and SMBMAD is proud to be a part of it. YPWeek streamed our April event live on their website.
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